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Chuck: Season 3 – Review

Chuck: Season 3

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE third season of Chuck began to show signs of wear and tear as the show’s creators sought to take it into new directions in a bid to keep things fresh.

It still offered effortlessly amiable viewing and thrived on the easygoing charm of Zachary Levi, the sexy allure of Yvonne Starhovski, and the gruff moodiness of Adam Baldwin, but some of the plot directions seriously strained credibility, while certain episodes felt like padding.

The premise of each episode was predominantly the same: Nerd Herd super-geek Chuck Bartowski (Levi) continued to work for the government as the ‘intersect’, while struggling to balance spy duties with his feelings for Sarah (Starhovski). The one notable difference this season, however, stemmed from the fact that Chuck had been transformed from physically inept victim in waiting to potentially the government’s most deadly weapon.

Thanks to a new intersect, Chuck could now perform kung fu and ‘flash’ his way out of any dangerous situation, so long as he wasn’t emotionally compromised at the time.

This, in turn, provided a wealth of potential for the show… with Chuck now fully proficient in the art of defending himself and no longer having to rely on the baby-sitting skills and last minute rescues of Sarah and Casey (Baldwin)… or so we thought.

Rather than really running with those possibilities, the show’s writers opted to pad out the blossoming of Chuck into super-spy, opting instead to find ways to keep him cute, loveable and largely kill-free. They also found new ways of placing strains on the Chuck-Sarah relationship – some of which worked, and some of which did test the patience.

Early on, for instance, Chuck finds his spy status threatened by his feelings… expertly handled by Levi in the central role, yet somewhat frustrating for anyone who had been longing to see Chuck kick some serious arse.

That said, there were some nice sub-plots and spanners thrown in the works that represented good diversions, such as the introduction of Kristin Kreuk as possible new love interest Hannah, for a multi-episode arc beginning with the excellent Chuck Versus First Class.

The inclusion of Brandon Routh as a new member of the team who later turned nemesis proved to be an inspired casting choice, especially in the way (later on) he pulled viewers’ emotions this way and that; while guest spots from the likes of Steve Austin, Christopher Lloyd and Fred Willard still provided plenty of mirth.

The show’s supporting characters also remained appealing, with Joshua Gomez regularly scene-stealing as best friend Morgan (nicely elevated to spy status as well), and Ryan McPartlin and Sarah Lancaster being given deservedly more to do (physically and emotionally) as Devon and Ellie.

The decision to slowly reveal Chuck’s secret to his friends and family also worked, lending episodes a nice tension as the truth about his government work was slowly revealed.

But some of the plot devices involving The Ring and the various Intersect changes didn’t entirely convince as the show took a self-consciously darker turn with threats posed to Chuck’s health and his immediate family.

Thankfully, after a mid to late season lull, things got back on track for a surprisingly emotional finale (delivered via the two episodes Chuck Versus The Subway and Chuck Versus The Ring, Part II), which wrapped things up neatly (with a winning combo of comedy, emotion and excitement).

But just how much longer Chuck can last has suddenly become a viable question… as the early appeal of its first two seasons slowly gives way to strained storytelling. Or, it could just be a blip… Season 4 has started nicely enough.

Certificate: 15
Episodes: 19
UK DVD Release: October 25, 2010